By Vijay Darda | 29-01-2018
More than 30 lakh people were killed in the war that lasted for around 20 years; guerrilla fighters killed 58,000 American soldiers
We just celebrated our 69th Republic Day. We showcased our military might on the Rajpath. Do we however, remember that our Republic is a precious gift from those brave freedom fighters who sacrificed their lives in the fight for independence? To keep this Republic intact, our brave soldiers lay their lives on the border every day. But are we able to instill the spirit of patriotism and bravery in our youth? I think this feeling of patriotism is seen only in the Army. Recently, I visited Vietnam. There, this patriotic spirit was visible to me in every person. We should also take meaningful steps to instill the spirit of patriotism in our new generation.
I have been hearing the stories of suppression of the Vietnamese people by the American army for years. I always wondered how the global superpower was forced by a small country like Vietnam to retreat. I wanted to experience that example of bravery first hand, so I went to Vietnam. There I reached the Cu Chi Tunnels where the US rained many bombs, but could not vanquish the indefatigable spirit of the guerrilla fighters. During my visit to Vietnam, I saw the War Museum which bears an eloquent testimony to the horror stories of American repression.
First of all, let us try to know in brief why this war took place? France had occupied the territory of Vietnam. Later, under the Geneva accord, Vietnam was divided into two parts. The northern part was called the Vietnamese People’s Republic, of which that great revolutionary Ho Chi Minh became the president. However, as the United States was concerned over the growing influence of communism, it triggered a coup in Southern Vietnam and made its favourite man prime minister. But the patriotic organisation named Viet Khang became the biggest challenge for America. Having been divided into Northern and Southern parts, China was supporting North Vietnam’s army and the United States rushed in support of South Vietnam in 1955. The two neighbouring countries of Laos and Cambodia also came in support of North Vietnam, despite knowing that America is a superpower and could crush any country by dint of its military strength.
Meanwhile, the government of Southern Vietnam tried to destroy the revolutionary organisation Viet Khang but did not succeed. Then America took up this responsibility. The American army realised the firepower of these revolutionaries when they killed many American soldiers in the forests. In fact, Viet Khang made a network of tunnels called Cu Chi for its protection. They used to kill American soldiers and enter into it immediately after and put up barricades of barbed wires on the entrance, unravelling which many soldiers died.
During my visit, I saw Cu Chi Tunnels. Now it is allowed to visit some of them with the help of guide. They are such a network of tunnels that any army will get stupefied. That’s what happened. It was this network of tunnels that helped the Vietnamese fighters score victories over the American army. American soldiers tried several times to get into the tunnels following the fleeing Vietnamese soldiers. Many a time, American soldiers entered the tunnels but never returned. All were killed! Finally, America started bombing them, but the tunnels were such that American bombs hardly made any impact on them! America got perturbed.
This was the story of tunnels. Now when I visited the War Museum, I was horrified by the instances of cruelty and repression perpetrated by America. Many journalists and photographers were martyred in this war. The circumstances were such that journalists and photographers used to go there only in military uniforms. The war lasted from December 1, 1956 to April 1975, and during that period the United States destroyed not only Vietnam but also Laos and Cambodia. History is witness to the fact that during the 20 years of the war, the US Air Force dropped a bomb every 8 minutes for almost 9 years. Analysts assume that in this fight, about 26 crore cluster bombs were lobbed on Vietnam and Laos. So far, half of the people who have been killed by cluster bombs worldwide are from this area. Not only this, Americans also used toxic gas in Vietnam. Its effect is still visible. More than 30 lakh people were killed in this war. Many were crippled. However, the US had to pay a huge price. Guerrilla fighters killed 58,000 American soldiers in this war. The US government also faced protests back home. People were asking why the US had jumped into Vietnam. People took to the streets asking this question. The result was that in the year 1973, the US started its withdrawal from Vietnam. Richard Nixon was the President of America at that time. He thought that running away from Vietnam is the only way out. The Vietnamese guerrillas had created such a reign of terror that the American army left their weapons and fled from Vietnam.
After the US withdrawal, in 1975, the communist army of North Vietnam took over Saigon, the largest city in southern Vietnam, with the help of South Vietnam’s revolutionaries, and the two countries merged to become the Socialist Republic of Vietnam. Now this city of Saigon is known as Ho Chi Minh City after the revolutionary leader. He died in 1969 during the war but his followers fulfilled his dream of sending the United States back from Vietnam. Ho Chi Minh loved India very much. India always supported him during the war and he had visited India too.
Now Vietnam is growing rapidly. It is expected that by 2020 it will be in the category of developed nations. It has become the second largest exporter of rice in the world. The high and magnificent buildings I saw in Ho Chi Minh City are not visible in India. Tourism has become a great attraction of Vietnam. Indeed, for a country that fought for 20 years, it is a matter of great pride to rise like the phoenix.
Before I conclude…
I was passing through Ho Chi Minh City. This city is second in the world as far as the number of two-wheelers is concerned. Suddenly I saw a bicycle being hit by a bike. In this situation we usually find bike rider fleeing, but he stopped there. Youngsters going to schools and colleges rushed to bicycle rider’s rescue. All of them lifted the bicycle rider and sent him to the hospital. I had also stopped. I started talking to the youngsters. They said it is their social responsibility to help the injured. While on way back, I was wondering when such healthy thinking would develop in our country.
The then President of India Dr Rajendra Prasad and the then Prime Minister Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru receiving Ho Chi Minh in New Delhi in 1958.
The purpose of my visit to Vietnam was to learn from close quarters how a small country not only faced superpower America for 20 years but also forced American army to retreat on the strength of its guerrilla warfare tactics! The entire Vietnam is replete with the stories of American cruelty, repression and atrocity!